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Storyteller

From “My Father’s Shadow”

Andre ran down Eastern Parkway, he ran until none of the buildings looked familiar to him, and then he stopped and stooped over breathing hard.
“Bouy, you run fas for so,” The shadow said. Andre looked around; there was a bodega on the corner of the street. Some older boys were standing at the door. They looked over at Andre and started walking towards him. Andre looked at the shadow; its eyes were suddenly bright red. The boys walked up to Andre, 
“You lost little man?” One of them asked. Andre did not respond.
“Whats wrong homeboy can’t you talk?” The grease from the boy’s hair ran down his forehead leaving dark spots on his denim shirt.
“Why are you in our hood, you trying to move in on our turf?” the boy said advancing,
“I is just teking a walk,” Andre said, The boy looked at his friends.
“You one of them island boys?”
“Yes,”
Where do you live young blood?”
“On Eastern Parkway,”
“You want to have some fun?”
“Don interfere wid me, I is a good fighter,” Andre said as he stpped back and raised his fists.  The boys laughed,
“Come on little man, you can hang with us,” the boy said and put his hands on Andre’s shoulder.
They walked past the bodega and down a side street.

They arrived at an abandoned apartment building and went inside. As they walked by open doors Andre saw people lying on broken beds or mattresses on the floor. A young man sat scratching himself as if a colony of ants were crawling all over him. Some shook violently, cursing as they did,
“Wah wrong wid dem?” Andre asked
“They want the white ghost,”
“Eh?” Andre asked,
“They want crack,” the boy said. Andre followed them into an empty apartment with other boys and girls walking around aimlessly. They stopped and looked at him. .
“Who dat?” one of the girls asked,
“This here is island boy,”
“He cute,” the girl said,
“Back off crack whore,” The boy said pushing the girl away, she fell to the ground,
“Screw you G-money,” the girl said,
“Want to have some fun island boy?’ He asked as they sat down in a corner and handed Andre a forty ounce from a cooler. Andre hesitated. The shadow eyes appeared next to him,
“Go on me bouy, tek it,” Amdre took the bottle and took a drink,
“Ewww, dats nasty,”
“Keep drinking shorty, it will make you feel nice,” G Money said and tilted the bottle up towards Andre’s mouth. Andre coughs,
“Don want anymore,”
“Come on bro drink up,” G-Money as his friends laughed and chorused his encouragement.
“Yeah man live a little,” one of the girls said
“Like dey say, live a liccle,” the shadow said. Andre closed his eyes and tilted the bottle,
“Chug chug chug,” the boys and girls shouted.
Later that night Andre stumbled around going from one dilapidated apartment to the next. Sad faces and blank stares looked at him,

“Go away!” A half naked woman screamed as she reached to put on her blouse. A man materialized in front of him,
“Get to fuck out of here,” he said and slammed the door in Andre’s face. Each apartment had people in it some sticking needles in their arms, some sniffed on lines of white powder. In one apartment two men got into a fight and the others pushed them off as they stumbled around the room. The strung out girl from before walked up grabbed his arm and pulled him into an apartment.  A mattress lay on the floor; someone had peeled the paint out off the walls, yellow light from a lamp created shadows across the room. She pushed him onto the mattress. Andre fell backwards the room spinning around him. The girl was pulling his pants down, Andre tried to resist but he was too drunk. He felt the cool air against his warm skin, and then he felt her warm mouth down there. A rat scurried across the floor and disappeared into a hole in the corner.He tried to push her head away, but his body felt like it was on fire and his heart slammed against his chest. Then the girl was on top of him moving. His head felt hot, then his body tensed up and every vein throbbed. The girl rolled off of him and he passed out.
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Storyteller

Chase in the Hood from I am a Dirty Immigrant

The very first day I began working at the retail store, a group of shoplifters helped themselves to quite a bit of merchandise. I had forgotten to lock the doors and they entered and grabbed as much stuff as they could. I was at the other store when I heard a ruckus outside. I ran to the door and saw four young men running down the street, arms filled with cheap panties, over sized bras; I mean the street looked like the poor man’s Victoria Secret was having an auction. The off-duty policeman that worked with us was in hot pursuit. The store owner, a short arrogant sort, his short legs churning like a propeller, screamed profanities as he gave chase. The four young men ran past me, balancing boxes in their arms. Panties, pants, shoes and shirts fell to the streets. The owner stopped picking up his merchandise as he yelled at me to join the chase.

So here I was, running down a strange street in the middle of the ghetto, wondering what the hell I was doing. Now understand, there were no ghettos on my island, hell, there were no real bad areas. All I had on my mind were the horror stories about gang fights and murders. You can thank Hollywood for me expecting to be attacked by gangs. We got to the projects and the young men scattered in all directions. The off-duty cop yelled at me, commanding that I go after the two young men who turned right down a narrow street. I ran after them, but they disappeared into an abandoned building. I looked at the dilapidated structure, black holes where doors and windows once were, hollow reminders of lives long past. A dirty-looking man stumbled out of the main entrance, disturbed by the commotion. He was eating what looked like a sandwich. He looked at me like he saw a ghost. His mouth opened, food dropped out of his mouth and he pointed in the direction the young men went. I stopped. There was no way in hell I was going into that bloody place. I turned around just as the cop pulled out his revolver and disappeared into the projects. For a second, I thought about following, but I changed my mind. Not only did he have his service revolver, but he also had another gun stuck in his waistband. Now would it have killed him to share? I walked back to the main street just as the store owner ran up, all out of breath. “You got them?” he asked. I shook my head.

Where did they go?” I pointed to the abandoned building,

Well go get them!” I looked at him, shook my head and brushed past him. That man was crazy if he thought my big ass would go into that place.

There was one thing I noticed about The Melting Pot City: shoplifters were different from The Wild and Wonderful City shoplifters. When they got caught, they would destroy the loot instead of giving it back. I was standing at the door of the store when a fat lady ran out of the store next to mine. She was jingling and tingling. Small pots and pans fell out from between her legs. The woman looked like she was giving birth to cookware. Three burly men were in hot pursuit. To tell you the truth, they looked like cartoon characters. The Road Runner theme song resonated in my head. When they caught up with her, they proceeded to beat the hell out of her. Lotion, soap, perfume: you name it, it fell out of her dress. I mean, where the hell was she holding all that stuff? As I stood, astonished, the woman started stomping on the items. You should have seen the malicious look on her face. It seemed more like a political statement than shoplifting. At the time, rap music was more lyrically conscious. People felt they had to do something to make change. If they were not going to get their piece of the pie, then no one will. People without power will do anything to better their situation. It is not greed that drives poor people – it’s need.

Anyway, if any of the men got any of the items from her, she would grab it and destroy it. In The Wild and Wonderful City, they just gave the bloody items back. I had never seen anyone shoplift on the island. I don’t know if they were too afraid or just honest, but for the sake of humankind, I hope it was honesty.

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Storyteller

Almost Jacked in Brooklyn From I am a Dirty Immigrant

By the end of the summer she was so homesick she started singing country music and no she was not singing the song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” either. Keep in mind that this is that woman who hated country music. Ironic since I was the one who grew up listening to my mom sing country songs all the time. The one incident that pushed us out of The Melting Pot City was the day one of the stores was almost robbed. Both stores were on the same block, one an everyday retail store, and the other a Victoria’s Secret-like store: expensive as hell. Why they would put such a store in the ghetto baffled me. These people could not afford a bloody nightie for one hundred dollars. I was working in the retail store one day when the Colombian worker at the pantry store called me.

The cat is having its kittens – come over here right away.” I was confused. Hell, I had not seen one bloody cat in this city since I moved there; just rats as big as cats. She finally broke down and told me to get over there, so I hurried and went.

As soon as I got to the door I realized what was going on. I stuck my hand in my shirt like I was packing a pistol. My heart was pounding hard, my head spinning. Hell, I thought I was going to faint for sure. I heard about the crime in The Melting Pot City, but damn, the thought of guns took me back to a place in my head that I thought I left on the island. There were three teenagers in the store. One stood at the cash register: bloody kid did not look more than seventeen. A girl was in the middle of the store, her handbag open and her hand in it. Another boy stood at the door to the storeroom, peeping in.

I walked behind the counter and stood there, my skin tingling with fear. I had no gun, no knife, nothing to defend myself. That same helpless feeling as when the fighter jets were bombing the island engulfed me. After about ten minutes, they came up to the counter and bought some items. As they were leaving, the kid that stood at the door to the storeroom stopped and looked at me and opened a small sack revealing a pearl handled pistol. I looked at him; his eyes looked dead. “They lucky you came in bro or we would have jacked this bitch up.”

After they left I half expected a volley of gunfire to erupt around me. There was no marijuana to calm my fears here. I guess it was time for me to go back to good old Blue Grass city. Great; I can give the bible bangers another chance to convert me.

There was one statement that solidified my decision to leave The Melting Pot City. One of the ladies informed me that I should wait until the new semester for the high school started. She said the students had no regard for life. I thought, hell no. I did not survive all that I had just to end up dead in some rat infested store. Despite this, let me add this tidbit: some of the shoplifters did not steal from the store as they said they could not in good conscience rob from another brother. It seems they thought I owned the stores so they felt it was their civic duty not to rob from one of the only black-owned businesses on the block. Funny thing; I used to stand at the door and watch them steal from the stores owned by Koreans and Jews.

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Storyteller

A Portion from the work in Progress Father’s Shadow

Andre ran down Eastern Parkway, he ran until none of the buildings looked familiar to him, and then he stopped and stooped over breathing hard.

“Boi, you run fas for so,” The shadow said. Andre looked around; there was a bodega on the corner of the street. Some older boys were standing at the door. They looked over at Andre and started walking towards him. Andre looked at the shadow; its eyes were suddenly bright red. The boys walked up to Andre, 

“You lost little man?” One of them asked. Andre did not respond.

“Whats wrong homeboy can’t you talk?” The grease from the boy’s hair ran down his forehead leaving dark spots on his denim shirt.

“Why are you in our hood, you trying to move in on our turf?” the boy said advancing,

“I is just teking a walk,” Andre said, The boy looked at his friends.

“You one of them island boys?”

“Yes,”

Where do you live young blood?”

“On Eastern Parkway,”

“You want to have some fun?”

“Don interfere wid me, I is a good fighter,” Andre said as he stepped back and raised his fists.  The boys laughed,

“Come on little man, you can hang with us,” the boy said and put his hands on Andre’s shoulder. They walked past the bodega and down a side street.

They arrived at an abandoned apartment building and went inside. As they walked by open doors Andre saw people lying on broken beds or mattresses on the floor. A young man sat scratching himself as if a colony of ants were crawling all over him. Some shook violently, cursing as they did,

“Wah wrong wid dem?” Andre asked

“They want the white ghost,”

“Eh?” Andre asked,

“They want crack,” the boy said. Andre followed them into an empty apartment with other boys and girls walking around aimlessly. They stopped and looked at him. .

“Who dat?” one of the girls asked,

“This here is island boy,”

“He cute,” the girl said,

“Back off crack whore,” The boy said pushing the girl away, she fell to the ground,

“Screw you G-money,” the girl said,

“Want to have some fun island boy?’ He asked as they sat down in a corner. G-money opened a cooler, dug around in it, then handed Andre a forty ounce beer bottle. Andre hesitated. The shadow eyes appeared next to him,

“Go on me boi, tek it, me, I is a rum man meself, but tek it, it go make you feel real good” Amdre took the bottle and took a drink,

“Ewww, dats nasty, Andre said, The Shadow snickered, its red eyes bounced up ands down. ”

“Keep drinking shorty, it will make you feel nice,” G Money said and tilted the bottle up towards Andre’s mouth. Andre coughs,

“Don want anymore,”

“Come on bro drink up,” G-Money insisted, as his friends laughed and chorused his encouragement.

“Yeah man live a little,” one of the girls said

“Like dey say, live a liccle,” the shadow said. Andre closed his eyes and tilted the bottle,

“Chug chug chug,” the boys and girls shouted.

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Stories Storyteller

Green Leaf, the beat down.

When we were kids, there is this game we used to play called green leaf, the objective of the game is to always have a green leaf on you because if the person you are playing with walks up to you and said green leaf and you don’t have one, you will get the beating of your life, and you can’t fight back, you just have to stand there and take it. I know, I know stupid game, but that is what happens when its an all boys school. I had this fried named Desmond, he was evil when it came to the game. He would wait for weeks, and when you least expected, there he was, a big smile on his face. I would reach into my pocket, pull out a leaf, but after weeks in my pocket, it was a dead brown. I would get punched, pinched, slapped on the back of the head. I always avoided that boy.

Years later, I went to Wesley College, a Methodist high school. I did not know Desmond was going to be there, all I know is I am walking down the street when I heard, “Green leaf,”  I was stunned, I mean it was years. I took off, my skinny legs turning as fast as they could. Desmond gave chase, we ran through the streets, down alleys, through the market square. I ran down a side street and stopped, thank god I lost him. I walked out of the side street and turned back to the market square, hell, I was going to get on my bus and head home, but boy I was wrong, Desmond knew who my favorite mini bus driver and was waiting for me. He unleashed a hurricane of punches and kicks on me, my skinny body felt like it would break under the blows. He walked away smiling, strutting like he just got his first kiss.

Ten years later, I am walking down Utica Avenue in Brooklyn minding my own business when I head someone shout, “Green leaf,” at first I did not pay attention, that is until I heard footsteps coming towards me, they we hitting he ground heavy, and was more of a trot then a sprint. I looked over my shoulder and there he was, an older Desmond, the same bloody afro hairstyle only part of it was white. He was smiling real big. I did not stop to think, I took off running. So here we are, two grown men, running down a busy avenue one screaming “Green leaf!” The other dodging people trying to escape a beating. I got to an intersection and stopped, I mean what the hell was I running from, I am a grown man. Desmond caught up to me, but instead of the beating he usually meted out, he bent over, breathing hard, sweat rolling down his face, his shirt stuck to his back. He reaches out and tapped my shoulder, “Green lead,” he said in between trying to catch his breath. So now anytime I go back to Brooklyn, I was on the look out for Desmond, straining my ears over the noise hoping that I do not hear the dreaded words, “GREEN LEAF!!!!

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Stories Storyteller

The Rats of Brooklyn

Back in 1986, during the fist year of our marriage Bonnie and I moved to Brooklyn. Here we were, a girl from Inez, a small town in Kentucky, and me an island boy, trying to find our way around the city. One day we were driving down Utica avenue and decided to stop to get something to eat. We saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken and pulled in to the drive through. There was a line so we were waiting for it to move. We were stopped next to the dumpster. We heard rustling, like there were cats rummaging in there for food. so we both looked over. “Damn, New York have some stay cats.” I said. Bonnie leaned forward and squinted her eyes, “Those are not cats, those are some big ass freaking rats,” she said, I leaned forward, and to my disgust there was about fifteen gigantic rats perched on the roof of the dumpster. So Bonnie and I did what any red blooded country girl and sun soaked island boy would do, we tried to chase them off. Bonnie blew the horn, nothing, the rats were not even phased. I leaned out of the car and banged on the hood, nothing, the dreadful little beasts did not even blink. So Bonnie, brave as she was, stepped out of the car and shouted, thinking they would scatter. but about five of the rats turned and looked at her, you know that look that a man who have not eaten in days would give, you know one that says, “Don’t f….. with me or I will mess you up!” Bonnie got back into the car closed the door and locked it. Hell those damn New York rats acted like humans, we were not going to mess with no mutant rats. That was it, we drove out of the line and went and found us a good Roti shop.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Attempted Robbery From the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant

By the end of the summer she was so homesick she started singing country music and no she was not singing the song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” either. Keep in mind that this is that woman who hated country music. Ironic since I was the one who grew up listening to my mom sing country songs all the time. The one incident that pushed us out of The Melting Pot City was the day one of the stores was almost robbed. Both stores were on the same block, one an everyday retail store, and the other a Victoria’s Secret-like store: expensive as hell. Why they would put such a store in the ghetto baffled me. These people could not afford a bloody nightie for one hundred dollars. I was working in the retail store one day when the Colombian worker at the pantry store called me.

The cat is having its kittens – come over here right away.”  I was confused. Hell, I had not seen one bloody cat in this city since I moved there; just rats as big as cats. She finally broke down and told me to get over there, so I hurried and went.

As soon as I got to the door I realized what was going on. I stuck my hand in my shirt like I was packing a pistol.  My heart was pounding hard, my head spinning. Hell, I thought I was going to faint for sure. I heard about the crime in The Melting Pot City, but damn, the thought of guns took me back to a place in my head that I thought I left on the island. There were three teenagers in the store. One stood at the cash register: bloody kid did not look more than seventeen. A girl was in the middle of the store, her handbag open and her hand in it. Another boy stood at the door to the storeroom, peeping in.

I walked behind the counter and stood there, my skin tingling with fear. I had no gun, no knife, nothing to defend myself.  That same helpless feeling as when the fighter jets were bombing the island engulfed me. After about ten minutes, they came up to the counter and bought some items. As they were leaving, the kid that stood at the door to the storeroom stopped and looked at me and opened a small sack revealing a pearl handled pistol. I looked at him; his eyes looked dead. “They lucky you came in bro or we would have jacked this bitch up.”

After they left I half expected a volley of gunfire to erupt around me. There was no marijuana to calm my fears here. I guess it was time for me to go back to good old Blue Grass city. Great; I can give the bible bangers another chance to convert me.

There was one statement that solidified my decision to leave The Melting Pot City. One of the ladies informed me that I should wait until the new semester for the high school started. She said the students had no regard for life. I thought, hell no. I did not survive all that I had just to end up dead in some rat infested store. Despite this, let me add this tidbit: some of the shoplifters did not steal from the store as they said they could not in good conscience rob from another brother. It seems they thought I owned the stores so they felt it was their civic duty not to rob from one of the only black-owned businesses on the block. Funny thing; I used to stand at the door and watch them steal from the stores owned by Koreans, Jews and other ethnicities.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Rumble at The Fulton Mall Brooklyn (From the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant)

I always heard that The Melting Pot City was violent but to tell you the truth most of the fights I saw were quite funny. One day a couple of Puerto Ricans kids had a disagreement. I think it was over a girl; go figure. One kid slapped the other and the show was on. I positioned myself at the door to watch and for an hour they danced around like Mohammed Ali. I tell you what – they looked real pretty dancing around like battling peacocks, none of the punches hitting its target. There were some onlookers begging for one of them to hit the other, but the only action was the two young men who were floating like butterflies but neither of them stinging like bees. One kid kept yelling at the other, “You don’t want none!” I remember thinking, “None of what?” I mean, was this a fight or a Broadway musical set in the hood? The posturing went on for hours until they were the only people left on the street, yelling insults at each other.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Immigration (From the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant)

I loved living in The Melting Pot City but we did not have time to truly enjoy all it had to offer. Life has a way of keeping you occupied. My first encounter with bureaucracy was trying to get my green card. Yes, I am legal. We went to the immigration office early one morning. The line was about two blocks long. I remember the sun peeping through the tall buildings, creating yellow lines on the street and the cars. We got to a counter and the lady wearing a white blouse with a painted on smile handed us a number. She looked exhausted; hell, I would be too if I had to deal with so many different cultures and so many people unable to speak the language clearly. We had to wait some more so I sat there looking at all the different nationalities. That was the most different languages I had heard in one place since all the tourists that came to the island. There were a lot of children in there too, most of them restless. What did they know about all this paperwork? The place seemed like a refugee camp – all these people in a strange place. It seemed so cold. There were not many smiling faces, just people worried about their future. It was not what you see in the movies: people ecstatic about getting into this country. Quite frankly, it was like the DMV, but more frustrating. We were all running from something and this country would offer opportunities we would not have in our own homeland. We were called into an office. Well it was a small cubicle with a light-skinned sister sitting behind a small desk.  I had heard horror stories about these interviews and the questions they asked. God knows I was not really prepared for this. The young woman asked me what college I went to. I told her. She asked me what my ex-wife studied. I don’t remember what I told her. I just know that it was something way different than what she did study. She approved me and we left. I was to get a temporary green card and would have to wait for the permanent one. It was that easy; no questions about what color panties she was wearing, or where she was born, or why I wanted to stay in The Land Of the Golden Streets.  Nothing like the stories I heard about questions they would ask. I guess the lady thought that there was no way this little white woman would marry the giant unless it was real.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/344979

http://www.amazon.com/am-Dirty-Immigrant-Anderson-Charles-ebook/dp/B00E91DDE6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1389360644&sr=1-1&keywords=I+am+a+dirty+immigrant